- Christian Wood is confident he can earn a spot on the Bucks’ opening day roster, as he expressed to HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky. The 6’11’ Wood reached an agreement with Milwaukee on a training camp deal after posting big numbers on their summer league squad. “Once I get the time and people see me, I know that I can be an X-factor in the NBA. I can run the floor and beat other bigs and I’m faster than most people my size,” he told Kalbrosky.
The Cavaliers have won the Central division for four consecutive seasons, and the Cavs, Pistons, and Bulls have combined to claim 12 of the last 14 division titles. However, those clubs won’t enter the 2018/19 season as the frontrunners to finish atop the Central.
Currently, the Pacers and Bucks are viewed as virtual co-favorites for the Central crown in ’18/19. The opening over/unders from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook had the Pacers at 47.5 wins and the Bucks at 46.5. Currently, however, betting site Bodog.eu has both teams projected at 46.5 wins for the upcoming season. No other Central team is projected to get to .500.
Indiana and Milwaukee finished four games apart last season, as the 48-34 Pacers claimed the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the 44-38 Bucks came in at No. 7. Both clubs have also made modest upgrades to their respective rosters during the offseason.
Indiana lost Lance Stephenson, Trevor Booker, Al Jefferson, and Glenn Robinson III, but added Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, Kyle O’Quinn, and Aaron Holiday. In Milwaukee, the Bucks acquired Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo to replace Jabari Parker, Brandon Jennings, and Jason Terry.
As they look to leapfrog the Pacers in 2018/19, the Bucks will be relying on continued development from Giannis Antetokounmpo – potentially the best player in the East – as well as an immediate impact from new head coach Mike Budenholzer. As for the Pacers, they’ll count on continuity from a group that gelled quickly last season, as well as improvements from young players like Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis.
What do you think? Do you expect the Pacers to supplant the Cavaliers as the Central’s top team in 2018/19? Will the Bucks take home the Central crown for the first time since 2001? Or will the Pistons, Cavs, or Bulls make a surprise run to win the division?
Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!
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The Bucks have reached an agreement with big man Christian Wood, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. It’s a training camp deal with an opportunity to make the 15-man roster, according to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The 6’11” Wood made a splash with the Bucks in the Las Vegas summer league, where he was named all-first team. He averaged 20.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG and 2.8 BPG over 27.1 MPG in five games. He also posted impressive numbers in 45 G League games last season, averaging 23.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.3 APG and 1.7 BPG in 33.1 MPG while playing for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers’ affiliate.
The Raptors recently took a look at Wood while working out free agent big men.
Milwaukee already had a full roster when it reached an agreement with swingman Shabazz Muhammad earlier this week. It had 14 players with guaranteed contracts, four with non- or partially-guaranteed deals, and two on two-way pacts prior to the Muhammad and Wood agreements, so it will have to shed two players to fit them in.
Undrafted in 2015, Wood has appeared in 30 NBA games. He played 17 for the Sixers during his rookie campaign and 13 more with the Hornets in 2016/17. He averaged 3.2 PPG and 2.2 RPG in 8.4 MPG in those games.
NBA teams have now completed the brunt of their offseason work, with the draft and free agency practically distant memories. Still, with training camps more than a month away, most clubs around the league have at least one or two outstanding issues they’ve yet to address.
Over the next week, we’re looking at all 30 NBA teams, separating them by division and checking in on the key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2018/19 regular season begins.
After focusing on the Atlantic on Monday, we’re moving on to the Central today…
Will the Bulls sign Bobby Portis to a rookie scale extension this year?
Even before Portis was technically eligible to sign a rookie scale extension, a report indicated that he and the Bulls were discussing the possibility of a new deal. That was a strong signal that there was legitimate interest on both sides in getting something done this year.
The Bulls will have cap room available next summer and may want to wait on Portis’ contract in order to maximize their flexibility in 2019. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not a huge concern for the team — Portis’ cap hold as a restricted free agent would be about $7.5MM, so if he signs a new contract now that goes into effect in 2019/20, it’s unlikely to significantly increase that cap charge and compromise Chicago’s cap space.
The Bulls and Portis have until October 15 to work something out. Last we heard, talks between the club and the forward’s camp were ongoing.
Will the Cavs eventually re-sign Rodney Hood?
The Cavaliers actually have several questions still to address. Will their long-rumored deal with David Nwaba be finalized anytime soon? Will Larry Nance get an extension this offseason? Will J.R. Smith or anyone else be traded before the season begins? Still, Hood’s status is the biggest question mark for the Cavaliers at this point, as he’s the most noteworthy free agent from the class of 2018 who remains unsigned.
Because Hood is a restricted free agent and there doesn’t appear to be a rival suitor out there ready to put an offer sheet on the table, Cleveland isn’t under pressure to get a deal done right away. The apparent standoff between Hood and the Cavs could last several more weeks. Last year, for instance, RFAs like Alex Len, Nikola Mirotic, and JaMychal Green didn’t resolve their situations until the last week of September when training camps got underway.
We’ll have to wait to see whether Hood will go the Len route – signing his one-year qualifying offer – or if he’ll be able to agree to terms on a multiyear deal with the Cavs, like Mirotic and Green did with their respective clubs last September.
Is the Pistons’ roster set?
There are no burning questions looming over the Pistons as training camp approaches. Detroit has 15 players on guaranteed contracts and both its two-way contract slots filled. There are no major trade candidates on the roster. And it looks like the team is just about done making changes to its coaching staff and front office.
It remains to be seen whether senior advisor Ed Stefanski will officially get a general manager or president of basketball operations title, but there’s little intrigue there — he has led the Pistons’ front office this offseason and is the team’s effective head of basketball operations, even if he doesn’t have the usual title.
So our question for the Pistons is whether this is the roster that will open the season. Jon Leuer is hurt again, and there’s not a ton of depth in the frontcourt behind Andre Drummond and the oft-injured Blake Griffin. It remains to be seen whether Henry Ellenson is ready for major minutes or if Zaza Pachulia can still play them.
The Pistons have plenty of depth at point guard and on the wing, so it will be interesting to see if they trade in any of that depth for one more frontcourt contributor. Even Detroit’s two-way players – Reggie Hearn and Keenan Evans – are guards, so perhaps the club will consider replacing one of them with a big man for insurance purposes.
Will Myles Turner get a rookie scale extension from the Pacers this year?
Turner was expected to take a huge step forward last season with Paul George no longer in Indiana, but he was nagged by injuries throughout the season and had his role adjusted to some extent to accommodate Domantas Sabonis‘ breakout year. The 22-year-old Turner should still be a major part of the Pacers‘ future, but after a modest showing in 2017/18 (12.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, .479 FG%), it’s not clear if the two sides will be able to compromise on his long-term value this offseason.
I expect Turner’s representatives to push for a long-term extension at least in the Clint Capela range ($16-18MM annually). The Pacers, who are poised to open up major cap room next summer and still have to figure out if the Turner/Sabonis pairing can succeed, may be reluctant to invest that heavily quite yet.
Like Portis and the Bulls, Turner and the Pacers will have until October 15 to strike a new deal. If negotiations get serious, it’s likely to happen closer to that deadline. And if the two sides can’t reach an agreement, Turner will be on track for restricted free agency in 2019.
Who will be the Bucks’ 15th man for the regular season?
It’s still possible that the Bucks will be able to work out a trade that sends out a player like Matthew Dellavedova or John Henson. Assuming the current 14 players on guaranteed salaries make the regular season roster though, that leaves just one open spot, with multiple candidates to fill it.
Tyler Zeller will be on a non-guaranteed deal and won’t necessarily be assured of a roster spot. The same goes for Shabazz Muhammad. Training camp invitees like Travis Trice, Brandon McCoy, and Jordan Barnett will likely end up with the Wisconsin Herd, but perhaps one of them becomes a contender for that 15th roster spot with a strong preseason.
Jason Terry also remains a wild card in the Bucks’ decision-making process. Terry has said multiple times that he wants to play one more NBA season, and he has spent the last two years in Milwaukee. In 2017, he didn’t sign with the Bucks until mid-September, so we can’t rule out the possibility of him returning to the team once more. If he does, he’d almost certainly have the upper hand for that final opening on the roster.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Shooting guard Shabazz Muhammad has agreed to re-sign with the Bucks, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. It’s a deal that will allow him to compete for a roster spot during training camp, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets.
Muhammad played 11 games with Milwaukee last season after getting bought out by the Timberwolves. Muhammad also appeared in four postseason games with Milwaukee.
He averaged 5.0 PPG in 9.7 MPG while playing in a combined 43 regular-season games for those teams. Muhammad has averaged 9.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 17.2 MPG over 278 career NBA games.
The Bucks already had 14 players with guaranteed contracts, four with non- or partially-guaranteed deals, and two on two-way pacts, so they’ll need to trade or waive someone to officially sign Muhammad. They also used up their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions on other free agents.
The NBA salary cap is somewhat malleable, with various exceptions allowing every team to surpass the $101.869MM threshold once that room is used up. In some cases, teams blow past not only the cap limit, but the luxury-tax limit as well, with clubs like the Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Raptors, and Wizards going well beyond that tax line this year.
The NBA doesn’t have a “hard cap” by default, which allows those clubs to build significant payrolls without violating CBA rules. However, there are certain scenarios in which teams can be hard-capped.
When a club uses the bi-annual exception, acquires a player via sign-and-trade, or uses more than the taxpayer portion ($5.337MM) of the mid-level exception, that club will face a hard cap for the remainder of the league year.
When a team becomes hard-capped, it cannot exceed the “tax apron” at any point during the rest of the league year. The tax apron is set at a point approximately $6MM above the luxury tax line. For the 2018/19 league year, the tax apron – and hard cap for certain clubs – is set at $129.817MM.
So far this year, eight teams have imposed a hard cap on themselves by using the bi-annual exception, using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, or acquiring a player via sign-and-trade. Listed below are those eight teams, along with how they created a hard cap.
- Used approximately $5.75MM of mid-level exception to sign Glenn Robinson, Khyri Thomas, and Bruce Brown.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Kyle Anderson.
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Ersan Ilyasova and Pat Connaughton.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Brook Lopez.
New Orleans Pelicans
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Julius Randle.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Elfrid Payton.
New York Knicks
San Antonio Spurs
- Used approximately $6.15MM of mid-level exception to sign Marco Belinelli.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Dante Cunningham.
Currently, none of the hard-capped teams listed above have team salaries within $5MM of the tax apron, so that hard cap shouldn’t be a real issue for most of these clubs during the 2018/19 league year. However, that could change if any of these teams – particularly the Hornets or Pistons – makes additional free agent signings or takes on extra money in a trade at some point.
The Rockets reportedly remain in the market for at least one more wing player, even after reaching a deal with Carmelo Anthony, but Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) hears that the team isn’t actively pursuing Hawks swingman Kent Bazemore.
According to Amick, Bazemore isn’t a major part of the Rockets’ discussions at this point. Amick suggests (via Twitter) that the Houston front office would have more interest in sending Ryan Anderson to the Heat in a deal that brings back a player like James Johnson or Tyler Johnson.
Of course, any Rockets offer would need to include additional compensation, such as a draft pick and/or a young player, to entice the Heat. Even then, it’s not clear if Miami would be interested in such a trade.
One team with apparent interest in dealing with the Rockets is Atlanta, according to Kelly Iko of RocketsWire (Twitter link). While Houston’s interest in Bazemore seems limited, Iko reports that the Hawks would be open to a trade if they could get a draft pick and a young player such as De’Anthony Melton in addition to Anderson. That asking price may be one reason why the Rockets’ interest in a Bazemore trade appears to have dissipated.
According to Iko (via Twitter), the Bucks have also contacted the Hawks about the possibility of acquiring Bazemore. New Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer was in Atlanta with Bazemore, and Iko indicates the young wing would be open to reuniting with his former coach on a contender. Initial trade discussions between the Bucks and Hawks didn’t get far though, Iko notes.
However, Marc Stein of The New York Times is already reporting matchups for three of the Christmas Day games. The Celtics will play the Sixers, the Knicks will host the Bucks, and the new-look Lakers will travel to Oakland to take on the Warriors. Chris Haynes of ESPN is also reporting that the Jazz will host the Trail Blazers.